Question

Is there equal division of marital assets and custody between spouses in Michigan?

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Wade P. Jackman - Family Law - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Wade P. Jackman

Located in Bingham Farms, MIJackman & Kasody, PLLC

Phone: 248-594-9991
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There is not necessarily an equal division of assets in Michigan.  Michigan is an "equitable division of property" state which gives the Judge broad discretion in fashioning a property settlement.  The Court can take fault into consideration in dividing assets and debts in Michigan.   For example if a spouse has a gambling problem and has squandered marital assets, the Court can award the other party more of the marital estate to compensate them for the loss in the value of the estate. Alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence and other issues can all skew the division of the marital estate in Michigan.

Retirement, including 401k accounts, are generally equally divided between the spouses, at least the portion earned during the marriage.  Again, however, the Court has broad discretion and may award one spouse more than the other based on many factors including fault and need.

Spousal support or alimony is still alive and well in Michigan.  The Court will look at many factors to determine if alimony is warranted including the length of the marriage, the earning ability of the parties, the needs of the parties and their ability to pay alimony, just to name a few.

Division of debts is more complicated.  Courts will look at the parties intentions.  Just because a credit card is in one spouses name does not mean they are responsible for that debt.  The Court will look into why the the debt was incurred and who benefited from the debt before deciding who is ultimately responsible.

Many people now seek to protect their assets when the marry by entering into an prenuptial agreement.  If properly drafted, a prenuptial agreement may be the best way to protect a person's assets in the event of a divorce.

Custody is determined by what the Court decides is in the best interest of the children.  Many factors come into play including the children's preferences.  Judges also have differing positions on custody and parenting time of children.  Many believe that equal parenting time is in the children's best interest, many do not.  Almost all will award equal parenting time if the parents agree.  If the parents cannot agree, most Judges will refer the matter the Friend of the Court to investigate and make recommendations as to what is best for the children, but the Judges are not bound by what the Friend of the Court recommends.

Many parents wish to relocate out of state after a divorce.  While the Courts used to routinely grant such requests to the custodial parent many years ago, that is no longer the case.  Most courts now disfavor parents moving children away from the other parent especially if that other parent is actively involved with the children.  Now a parent must establish to the Court that move will have a significant benefit to the child and the relocating parent and that the other parent will have the ability to remain involved in their children's lives.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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